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For Jane's, Gustav Weißkopf's 1901 Liftoff Displaces Wright Bros.

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the ahem-there's-been-a-development dept.

Transportation 267

gentryx writes "Newly found evidence supports earlier claims that Gustave Whitehead (a German immigrant, born Gustav Weißkopf, with Whitehead being the literal translation of Weißkopf) performed the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flight as early as 1901-08-14 — more than two years before the Wrights took off. A reconstructed image shows him mid-flight. A detailed analysis of said photo can be found here. Apparently the results are convincing enough that even Jane's chimes in. His plane is also better looking than the Wright Flyer I." (And when it comes to displacing the Wright brothers, don't forget Alberto Santos Dumont.)

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Gutenberg wasn't first either (0)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128547)

nah, nah. boo, boo.

Re:Gutenberg wasn't first either (3, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128973)

I think what this conversation is really about is the role of US in international affairs. It's a nationalistic thing - "we invented X! Y is teh bestest nation!" and so countires play tug of war with different accomplishments. I say let's leave politics to the politicians, and keep the facts where they belong!

Re:Gutenberg wasn't first either (4, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129093)

Politics and penis-waving aside (though Whitehead lived in Connecticut when he built it, but anyway...)

Given the image, I'd love to see if someone actually managed to reconstruct the thing and see if it actually can fly... ah, wait - someone managed it [wikipedia.org] )

Get a life... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128553)

Who cares? Go create something...

Re:Get a life... (1)

TheRealDevTrash (2849653) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129213)

You mean like you did this morning?

What? (2, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128555)

That is rowboat with some kind of wings attached. Not flying wings but insect wings. Is this some kind of joke?

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128589)

That is rowboat with some kind of wings attached. Not flying wings but insect wings. Is this some kind of joke?

Nope. It's an airship!

^- That was, but not a very good one.

Re:What? (5, Informative)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128619)

That is rowboat with some kind of wings attached. Not flying wings but insect wings. Is this some kind of joke?

No, it's conspiracy theorists at its best. Here's the actual analysis that went into the re-creation of the photo linked above:
http://www.gustave-whitehead.com/history/detailed-photo-analysis/ [gustave-whitehead.com]

As you can see, it's pretty much the "computer... magnify, rotate, enhance" sort of photo manipulation that "proves" flight. Whitehead was definitely a pioneer in aviation. But there is absolutely no evidence he created a steerable machine or even understood differential lift to cause banking in a plane to accomplish a curved, controlled, coordinated turn in flight like the Wright machine was able to accomplish.

Other people had been in the air before flight in gliders and on ground effect. A Frenchman named Ader lifted off the ground (barely) first, to disastrous consequences earlier (he, too, based his plane on a bird/bat design instead of scientific analysis and was unable to control it in flight). It was actually the earlier failures of Ader, Langley, and others that caused so many problems when the Wrights tried to sell their planes to the US and French military, who had seen the earlier failures and couldn't believe a couple of bicycle mechanics had cracked the problems of efficient propellers, steering, proper wing camber, and usable controls.

It was only after there was competition from aircraft manufacturers trying to invalidate the Wright patent that all this prior art suddenly magically materialized. The Wrights never lost a case.

Re:What? (2)

dave420 (699308) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128895)

Then please explain the 85 newspaper articles from the time which all agree that Whitehead flew many times in 1901/1902. To disprove those you'd have to be the conspiracy theorist! It's only now that the records have been digitised is it so easy to find them. The Wright brothers and anyone seeking to disprove their claims wouldn't have been able to find these articles with anything close to the ease of today. The Wright brothers were excellent, but they were simply not the first nor the best.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

painandgreed (692585) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128997)

Then please explain the 85 newspaper articles from the time which all agree that Whitehead flew many times in 1901/1902.

True enough. I have a stack of World Weekly News and Paranoia! Magazine that support those findings.

Re:What? (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129009)

I'm sure the newspaper articles are right and that Whitehead did fly. However what definition of "fly" were they using?

With the 20 HP motor, Whitehead probably had no problem lifting off the ground at least a few feet. The people watching would've been excited and certainly would've told others that they saw a machine fly.

But are we talking about sustained, controllable flight here? Or just hovering in ground effect in a straight line? Look at the picture with the bat wings and tell me -- if you know anything about aerodynamics at all -- what would've happened the first time that thing banked into a turn.

Re:What? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129173)

I'm sure the newspaper articles are right and that Whitehead did fly. However what definition of "fly" were they using?

With the 20 HP motor, Whitehead probably had no problem lifting off the ground at least a few feet. The people watching would've been excited and certainly would've told others that they saw a machine fly.

But are we talking about sustained, controllable flight here? Or just hovering in ground effect in a straight line? Look at the picture with the bat wings and tell me -- if you know anything about aerodynamics at all -- what would've happened the first time that thing banked into a turn.

I heard it didn't even onboard wifi. Is flying without internet access really flying?

Re:What? (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129141)

For you to be correct, the other people who actually flew first would have had to never heard about the news of the Wright Brothers. How likely is that? Otherwise, we'd have heard of the controversy, after all, we did hear about the others that complained, so I'd consider proof he did not complain. That doesn't seem likely at all.

The simplest explanation is that the Wright Brothers were first, and others were vying for attention, but none "flew" they just fell with style.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129243)

There were a lot of people doing experiments at the time. A *lot*. There were thousands of papers/documents/experiements on powered flight written at the time. Many people actually did get off the ground in the first decade of the 21st century. I think the picking of the Wrights as the "first" is a somewhat arbitrary choice of history.

Who designed and flew the first practical airplane (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129147)

Keyword is "practical". The Wright brothers did not fly a practical plane. All that they did, was groundwork that helped others to develop a real, practical plane.

I'm not convinced that Gustaf did anything remarkable, nor am I convinced that he did NOT do anything remarkable. The images in the citations are not impressive. Someone would have to copy it, and make it fly, for me to be impressed.

Let's remember, there were snake oil salesmen by the thousands back in the day. And, rainmakers. And, yes, they even had politicians back then. I need a little proof before I believe the thing in those images actually flew. I don't even require that it's flight time equals that of the Wright brothers. Just get it off the ground, under it's own power, and I'll accept that it can fly. Fifteen feet, fifty feet, five hundred feet of flight - none of it can happen if the damned thing won't get off the ground.

I'm just not a snake oil purchaser. I want videos, photos, and eyewitnesses by the score.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

MobileC (83699) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129293)

It was only after there was competition from aircraft manufacturers trying to invalidate the Wright patent that all this prior art suddenly magically materialized. The Wrights never lost a case.

And since then, all planes have used wing warping for controlled flight.

Oh, hang on...

Re: What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129359)

Well, yeah - after a fashion. They're called ailerons.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128639)

Me and Opie were fishing in the pond and this giant mosquito swooped down..........

Re:What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128643)

Santos Dumont did it first. And he did it in front of a huge crowd in the middle of Paris. For every Joe, Engineer, Scientist, Politician and Journalist to see. No secrecy! And he never patented his designs as he wanted mankind to benefit from his creation. Unfortunately, he died an insane man disgusted by the use of his invention during World War I.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128959)

The only thing Dumont did first is take off *with wheels*.

Who gives a shit?

Re:What? (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128991)

The truth is, he was the first to make a fully capable air vessel, which could take off and land, a thing that could be called a plane, unlike anything The Wright Brothers or anyone else did before. He actually invented the plane even though he didn't invent the first airborne heavier than air vessel made by man.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129119)

Dude, he took the design of the wright flyer and bolted wheels onto the bottom of it. The tricky part that nobody got before the Wrights was the wing cross-section. They worked a *lot* to get it correct - they thew out existing data on airfoil and lift data and created their own measuring device to figure out the best shape.

Not taking anything away from Dumont - he made some good improvements to the design of the Wright flyer. However, there's a reason why everything before Wright's plane looked like a bird or a bat, and everything after looked like a Wright Flyer.

Re:What? (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129161)

Nothing the Wright Brothers did before Dumond was capable of taking off on its own and landing in one piece. I am not trying to take the merits from the Wright Brothers either, but credit must be given where it is due, although much of the technology used to create it was developed and improved by the Wright brothers and by many others too, as Gustav Weißkopf, the plane was invented by Dumond.

Re:What? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129375)

And the Wright Brothers supposedly flew an "airplane" - which nobody can prove - that used a catapult.

Who gives a shit?

Re:What? (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129171)

A boat-plane-car, the ultimate vehicle!

Another first? (4, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128559)

First use of Unicode characters in Slashdot?

Re:Another first? (3, Interesting)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128605)

It was hardcoded. Somebody had to directly edit the row in MySQL to insert the non-alphanumeric ascii character into it.

Re:Another first? (4, Funny)

flyneye (84093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128691)

Well, shieße! you learn something new everyday.

Re:Another first? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128783)

Nicht scheiße?

Re:Another first? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128789)

die FR1ßT POßTEN!

Re:Another first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129015)

Whát? Exçüse me, bút I cäñ't bëlíévé thïs wórks nöw áñd múst abüsë ït.

Re:Another first? (2)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129021)

Well, shieße! you learn something new everyday.

The S Sharp is U+00DF, and thus part of ISO 8859-1; maybe that's what they're allowing? Here go a few more: ñ ® ÿ

Lowercase ÿ goes through; uppercase Y with umlaut/diaresis doesn't. Euro sign € goes through. The "universal currency symbol" U+00A4 doesn't.

Conclusion: it's ISO 8859-15.

And I'm sure it should be Scheiße; the German Language capitalizes all Nouns.

Re:Another first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129223)

The page source (they're harder to find in today's browsers: in FF I used Tools | Web Developer | Page Source) shows the following meta-tag (transliterating angle to square brackets for obvious reasons):

[head]
[meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /] ..
[/head]

So the limitation is probably not in the network transfer, it's in the active GUI font in your OS login session. Most PC fonts don't support the full compliment of Unicode characters, and many may only support Microsoft CP 1252 (basically ISO-8859-1 with a few reserved code points used by Microsoft to represent additional accented characters) for example.

Re:Another first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129299)

So the limitation is probably not in the network transfer, it's in the active GUI font in your OS login session.

The limitation is not in the network transfer, since the HTML is sent in UTF-8. But what makes you think the problem is in his OS? It could easily be that the database doesn't store text in UTF-8, but ISO-8859-15, like he said, and the text is converted between the database and the web server to UTF-8.

Here's Unicode character U+00A4, between quotes: "", and here's U+00DF: "ß". I can see both clearly before posting, so obviously my browser can display them both. Are they both visible after my comment hits the database?

I'm not saying it's necessarily the database, either. Maybe it's the Perl code that handles comments (does it still run in Perl?). Or maybe it's something else entirely.

Re:Another first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129353)

âoePoopâ(TM)s the dogâ

Re:Another first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129391)

No, it's not Unicode. The schloss is an ASCII character, just not in the US ASCII set.

that bat-boat never flew (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128563)

simple as that

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128565)

Really, what's the point? Go create something new and stop wasting our time...

When will people learn (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128569)

It's not just about discovery, but about sharing that discovery. Lots of people made it to the Americas before Columbus, but because his discovery of it became well known, he gets credit. If I invent practical cold fusion in my back yard but never share that, well, then I deserve to be forgotten.

Re:When will people learn (5, Interesting)

blue trane (110704) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128623)

Mendel tried to share. Wegener tried to share. Aristarchus of Samos tried to share. Society chose to cover their ears, close their eyes, and sing "la la la".

Re:When will people learn (4, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128943)

Mendel tried to share. Wegener tried to share. Aristarchus of Samos tried to share. Society chose to cover their ears, close their eyes, and sing "la la la".

Schrader, Ambrose, Rüdiger and van der Linde also tried to share their discovery, but ultimately, the German High command decided not to use nerve agents against allied targets in WWII.

Some things should not be "shared".

Re:When will people learn (5, Interesting)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128709)

While the Wright Brother's first reaction was to patent the invention, Santos Dumont freely spread his schematics and helped people who wanted to copy his inventions, in the true spirit of sharing knowledge (like Free Software). So by your own definition the W.B. should be forgotten...

Re:When will people learn (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128815)

So by your own definition the W.B. should be forgotten

I'm not the AC, however patents are not secrets, by design they "share knowledge" with the general public. What the WBs did differently to the others is they monopolised the commercial opportunities.

Since both were based on Hargrave's box kite ... (2)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128969)

Since both were based on Hargrave's box kite which had been firmly placed in the public domain by the inventor it would have been impolite to fence off the commons and patent derivatives of the design.

Richard Pearse (3, Informative)

taniwha (70410) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128571)

let's not forget Richard Pearse too

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pearse [wikipedia.org]

Re:Richard Pearse (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129143)

There were quite a few "crashers" around that time. People flew, but rarely in a "controlled" manner.

Although the Wrights' earliest flights were arguably not very well documented either, they continued with improvements on the same design and within a couple of years finally stunned large crowds in European air shows with their maneuverability that was completely unmatched by others. Thus, there was a chain of stronger and stronger evidence and witnesses.

The true "first" may be forever debatable, but it was clear that the Wrights were years ahead of the competition in terms of control and maneuverability in the decade of 1900.

Smithsonian (5, Informative)

jazman_777 (44742) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128573)

Has a deal to display one of the early Wright flyers. The deal stipulates that the Smithsonian MUST present the Wright brothers as the first. Period.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Whitehead [wikipedia.org]

"When the Flyer was finally brought back and presented to the Smithsonian in 1948, the museum and the executors of the Wright estate signed an agreement (popularly called a "contract") in which the Smithsonian promised not to say that any airplane before the Wrights' was capable of manned, powered, controlled flight.[37][note 5] This agreement was not made public."

Re:Smithsonian (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128587)

History at its finest. And we call it a science.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_history_a_science [answers.com]

  I would wish they taught shit like this to science graduates. So many miss this lesson.

Re:Smithsonian (2, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128731)

I love how your conspiracy theory conveniently ignores the fact that the Wright Brothers studied aerodynamics, which was why their aircraft flew and others' did not. That flying rowboat in the photo is not aerodynamic at all. Tell you what, you build a reproduction and make it fly. Others will build a Wright Flyer...oh wait they've already done that and it flies.

Re:Smithsonian (0)

dave420 (699308) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128907)

Then explain the 85 newspaper articles of Whitehead's flights before the Wright brothers'? How can you judge aerodynamic properties of an aircraft in a picture? You are clearly not operating in the realm of reality if you think you can. It seems you want them to be the first more than you want to know the truth, which is terribly sad.

Re:Smithsonian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129011)

Of course you have to define "flight" - are we talking "controlled flight"? Or just "flight"?
If I strap an engine with a propeller on a set of wings, and can get my contraption off the ground, but can't actually control it and the best I can do is go in a straight line (or in whatever direction the wind takes me on top of my forward motion), that might be "powered flight", but it's not controlled flight.

Re:Smithsonian (5, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128881)

You are leaving out of the story a singular example of fraud and collusion between the Smithsonian and Glenn Curtiss.

With Smithsonian approval, Glenn Curtiss extensively modified the Aerodrome and made a few short flights in it in 1914, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to bypass the Wright Brothers' patent on aircraft and to vindicate Langley. Based on these flights, the Smithsonian displayed the Aerodrome in its museum as the first heavier-than-air manned, powered aircraft "capable of flight." This action triggered a feud with Orville Wright (Wilbur Wright had died in 1912), who accused the Smithsonian of misrepresenting flying machine history. Orville backed up his protest by refusing to donate the original 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer to the Smithsonian, instead donating it to extensive collections of the Science Museum of London in 1928. The dispute finally ended in 1942 when the Smithsonian published details of the Curtiss modifications to the Aerodrome and recanted its claims for the aircraft.

Langley Aerodrome [wikipedia.org]

Langley's simple approach was merely to scale up the unpiloted Aerodromes to human-carrying proportions. This would prove to be a grave error, as the aerodynamics, structural design, and control system of the smaller aircraft were not adaptable to a full-sized version. Langley's primary focus was the power plant. The completed engine, a water-cooled five-cylinder radial that generated a remarkable 52.4 horsepower, was a great achievement for the time.

Despite the excellent engine, the Aerodrome A, as it was called, met with disastrous results, crashing on takeoff on October 7, 1903, and again on December 8. Langley blamed the launch mechanism. While this was in some small measure true, there is no denying that the Aerodrome A was an overly complex, structurally weak, aerodynamically unsound aircraft. This second crash ended Langley's aeronautical work entirely.

Langley Aerodrome A [si.edu]

Achieving dynamic control in three dimensions was the Wrights' great obsession.

They were as intensely focused on learning how to fly as they were on the evolution and refinement of their mechanical designs.

Re:Smithsonian (2, Informative)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129003)

If you are getting your info from the Whitehead site, the guy seems like a bit of a quack:

Quote from:
http://www.gustave-whitehead.com/history-of-whitehead-critics/ [gustave-whitehead.com]
"Interestingly, Wright (or his attorney) tried to be too clever when tying up the Smithsonian, and the latter's trustees, apparently, failed to notice the blunder: By referring to "any aircraft" and not "airplane", the document prohibits the Smithsonian from even admitting that, since 1852, dozens of dirigable airships (indisputably 'craft of the air') had been "capable of carrying a man under [their] own power in controled flight". Count Zeppelin and his predecessors would be as unhappy as Whitehead if airbrushed out of history by this secret agreement."

Quote from:
http://blog.nasm.si.edu/aviation/blimp/ [si.edu]
"All Zeppelins are dirigibles, but not all dirigibles are Zeppelins. A dirigible is any powered lighter-than-air craft capable of maneuvering. For the linguistically fastidious, a Zeppelin is a rigid airship manufactured by the Zeppelin Company, or by Goodyear-Zeppelin, the American firm that produced the two great U.S. naval airships, ZRS-4, USS Akron (1931-1933), and ZRS-5, USS Macon (1933-1935)."

Oops.

Yeah, right (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128577)

That looks like an absolute fake... I'd love the engineering analysis to show if that things could conceivably fly.

Re:Yeah, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128615)

Well it not called heavier than air for nothing. The type of wings used have made a compack an are in use in small uav. Wings are great since high lift to drag ratio. I would venture to say given enought thrust this would fly. Says maden voyae in conneticut. Also the wings are easier to control since they self adjust the engineering may not have been as clever as the wright brothers who used wind tunnels for checking the best wing for their design but I think it could fly. What you ould need to check would be the engine and how much thirst it produced.
     

Re:Yeah, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128675)

This is even more stupid than the 1947 Roswell autopsy film.

Re:Yeah, right (4, Interesting)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128671)

One of the articles shows two differnet replicas being built and flown 1986 and 1998 in USA and Germany.
The only issue I have with it is the engine that would have been needed to get it in the air shouldn't have existed then. It appears the original engines he used no longer exist, so it will remain a mystery. The claims he made on engine weight and HP are quite a bit ridiculous for the time. As for the design of the plane, it could easily fly, but wouldn't be my first choice to try out, maybe if it had a larger rudder because in a slight wind it would probably be impossible to land.

Re:Yeah, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129177)

It mentions a compressed air engine in the article. That would mean lots of power for a short time, and a simpler/lighter engine.

Re:Yeah, right (3, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128701)

There are stories about bigfoot sightings from the 1800s. Are we now all supposed to believe that bigffot is real based on those articles?

Re:Yeah, right (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128703)

I don't think it could. It was a monoplane with two engines (one diesel) and the wing design looks like it would not provide much lift at all. Plus the fuselage looks like it would have a lot of drag.

I call bullshit

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128581)

That picture and the story that goes with it are a joke, right? It's a couple weeks early.

Earliest powered heavier than air maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128621)

...but controlled flight? No.

From the Wikipedia article linked in the summary, it seems like one of his runs promptly crashed into a building with the steam engine powering the craft badly scalding Gustav himself. This pretty much ended his experimental flights, as whatever method that was devised to control his aircraft was obviously insufficient.

The Wright flyer on the other hand had full control (pitch, yaw, and roll) as far as modern flight is concerned. It could do figure 8 turns and could go back around to land where it started. Quite important, since being able to land has more to do with having a safe flight than anything else.

Re:Earliest powered heavier than air maybe... (5, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128707)

Anybody can land. The good ones can land twice.

Re:Earliest powered heavier than air maybe... (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128999)

Landing twice doesn't take skill - just inertia.

Landing in a way that you can walk away from it takes skill.

Re:Earliest powered heavier than air maybe... (2)

edremy (36408) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129007)

A good landing is one you walk away from. A great landing is one where you can use the airplane again.

Re:Earliest powered heavier than air maybe... (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129059)

...but controlled flight? No.

From the Wikipedia article linked in the summary, it seems like one of his runs promptly crashed into a building with the steam engine powering the craft badly scalding Gustav himself. This pretty much ended his experimental flights, as whatever method that was devised to control his aircraft was obviously insufficient.

The Wright flyer on the other hand had full control (pitch, yaw, and roll) as far as modern flight is concerned. It could do figure 8 turns and could go back around to land where it started. Quite important, since being able to land has more to do with having a safe flight than anything else.

The first Wright flyer was a joke. Didn't have enough power to lift off the ground; didn't even have wheels, just skids. It was only controllable in a very limited way. They didn't fly figure eights for another couple of years. They were also secretive, didn't share their ideas, and in fact refused to give demonstrations to prospective buyers without a deposit. People back in Cleveland did see some of their experimental flights between Kittyhawk and later public demonstrations, but not many; they were pretty secretive.

And the Wright brothers had almost no impact on aviation after that first flight. They preferred to sit on their heels and wait for the world to come to them. Everyone else was out experimenting in public and advancing the state of aircraft design. They were one hit wonders and contributed almost nothing beyond that first flight, and a famous demonstration in Paris in 1908 (maybe 1906). After that, nothing. What they are secondly famous for is their patent battles with the world, which were only settled by the US government strong arming everybody into sharing patents because they wanted to buy military aircraft for WW I in 1917.

The Wright Bros, along with James Watt, are great examples of the counter productive nature of patents.

Picking nits (4, Interesting)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128633)

Might be overly critical, but from the picture it looks an awful lot like that thing is gliding off the top of a hill. That's quite a bit different than lifting off of a flat surface.

How "reconstructed" is that photograph, anyway? That fence in the foreground looks weird.

Re:Picking nits (4, Informative)

Psychotria (953670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128679)

The reconstructed photo is a montage of known images stuck together to match the analysis of the highly magnified zoomed portions of the photos. Seriously.

Re:Picking nits (1, Interesting)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128913)

How "reconstructed" is that photograph, anyway? That fence in the foreground looks weird.

You have a good eye! That's the first thing that struck me as well. Look at the top left corner of the nearest fence post at about 150% magnification. That looks like poor cropping. And the illumination on it doesn't match ambient lighting. The "graining" on the fence doesn't match the rest of the image either. AND look at the bottom edge of the photo. Looks like the image continues below the black line, but the fence doesn't. Why the heck would somebody bother adding it? Not like it contributes anything to the image.

Net no new news (1)

Itinerant-Critic (971428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128655)

People have been following this for over 100 years now and there is nothing new to report. Please let us move on to more pressing topics, like the weather -- hottest years in last 11,000 - yeah, that's more relevant.

Re:Net no new news (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128845)

Given that this is equally fallacious, almost the same relevance.

Still earlier flight in 1873 (4, Funny)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128669)

When Cletus Leadbetter's whiskey still exploded in October 17 1893 it's said he flew a half mile and was able to control his flight by flapping his coat. They are still debating whether his coat flapping was to control his flight or to put out his burning backside.

Jane's is awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128673)

Reads like someone intentionally trying to sound more intelligent. All the commas and hyphens are a sign that the writer is quiet incapable of making an eloquent, simple point.

I wouldn't put any trust in the opinion of such an imbecile.

Re:Jane's is awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128697)

I always chuckle at this thought when I think about sentence structure. "A sentence should be like a skirt. As short as possible, but cover the important parts."

Re:Jane's is awful (1, Troll)

Dzimas (547818) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128805)

Which, in the case of your grandmother, would be a very long sentence indeed.

Re:Jane's is awful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128837)

Agreed.

That said, Jane's writer is apparently a Muslim woman.

Wright Flyer 3, first practical plane 1905 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128713)

The Wright Brothers flew the first practical airplane in 1905, the Flyer 3. It was able to takeoff, perform controlled flight, and land under its own power and control. That is enough worthly place in history. However, there weren't many customers, competitors quickly surpassed the Wright Brothers, and had they had many patent disputes. Maybe they should have started a law office instead of a bicycle shop.

The Wrights invented flying (4, Insightful)

shoor (33382) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128715)

I watched a multi-part documentary on TV about the development of aircraft, emphasis on military aircraft, but there was talk about the Wright Bros and Santos-Dumont also. What I particularly remember is that one commentator said that while others were getting things off the ground, it was the Wright Brothers who understood the inherit instability of a plane. Others thought of a plane as a bit like a boat in the water, but the Wrights had been bicycle mechanics, and knew that one had to constantly control a bicycle, and they studied how birds, for example, had to constantly adjust their wings. What impressed people at the 1908 Paris Air Show wasn't just that the plane flew, but that it was so maneuverable, doing figure 8s, that kind of thing.

Re:The Wrights invented flying (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129005)

All the greatest inventions came from the USA. The automobile assembly line, the airplane, the internet, GPS, democracy (which actually works, unlike most republics and other, lesser forms of goverment), Pizza Hut, Segway, Pepsi,, brominated oil, Gatorade, Olestra, Budweiser, high fructose corn syrup, and, last but not least, Obamacare.

Free healthcare for EVERY AMERICAN!

Disappointment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128737)

I'm always on the lookout for widespread misconceptions, but this attempt to overthrow conventional wisdom doesn't pass the smell test. Aside from the lack of contemporary evidence (computer-generated imagery doesn't count) and the absurd claims of his supporters (included a *steam-powered* plane in 1899, with crew of two including a stoker), there is this puzzling question: Why did the man who supposedly pioneered powered flight in 1901 or 1902 file only one patent which was for an *unpowered* "aeroplane" in 1905? I think his tendency to use the word "aeroplane" for gliders may be the source of some the continued confusion.

Sounds like a job for... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128741)

the Mythbusters! If Adam and Jamie can't make that thing fly, no one can.

Re:Sounds like a job for... (1)

AJWM (19027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129377)

Oh, I'm sure Adam and Jamie could make it fly ... with the application of sufficient quantities of C-4...

Both are incorrect. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128767)

I was the first to travel by flight. I have a photo of me after I used my Tardis to travel back to ancient Greece.
If it weren't for those terrible story tellers who couldn't get it right I would have been remembered.

ufo and jesus were first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128847)

stfu

Re:ufo and jesus were first (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129049)

Sorry—busted. After in-depth analysis, I determined that Jesus is a poor lifting body and, indeed, aerodynamically unstable. It would have been difficult for him to maintain altitude, much less ascend to heaven.

The most likely explanation is mistaken identity; perhaps the crowd saw Mecha-Jesus, who, as is commonly known, possesses greek fire rocket boots and a deployable rogallo wing.

Alternatively, if Jesus was still crucified, it would have been possible to construct a simple (albeit extremely large) diamond kite—possibly from high-strength silk fabric imported from the orient. This would still, however, not meet the requirement of powered, controlled flight.

Lawrence Hargrave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128865)

Lawrence Hargrave

Not convincing to me (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128883)

I can agree with every one of their photo interpretations, except for the important one. That one, to me, looks like a plane suspended in a room (or, maybe, held up by several people). In other words, it looks like an exhibit, not a plane in flight.

Re:Not convincing to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128963)

It is an exhibit. It's recreated using known-images to basically make this drawing ((http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Whitehead_woodcut.jpg) from the original 1901 article which supposedly proves his flight.

Re:Not convincing to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129073)

And just to confirm, I'm in agreement with you.

That's not flying.... (2)

sdo1 (213835) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128899)

... it's falling. With style.

-S

Re:That's not flying.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128953)

So said the fat man diving off a cliff.

face palm (1)

singingjim1 (1070652) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128911)

Slashdot gets punked yet again.

We call BS! (5, Insightful)

srg33 (1095679) | about a year and a half ago | (#43128951)

I don't know if the Wright brothers were first or not. But, I do know that this "re-creation" is BS. I read TFA and carefully viewed the images. There is nothing that actually shows the darn thing flying and there are many clear photographs of it on the ground. Someone mentioned evidence in court. Well, I am an attorney and this case is a laugher!

Re:We call BS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129075)

I agree, wholeheartedly. And if you follow the link to the Dumont website, you find an admission the Wrights were the first to fly. Period. It only gets foggy when you throw on the "conditions" - did it take off unassisted, did it fly a long distance, etc., etc., etc.
I am sick to death of people rewriting history.

Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43128955)

Is it just a computer generated known-photo replication of this drawing from the original 1901 article stating he flew? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Whitehead_woodcut.jpg

DAN'S SAYS JANE'S IS AN IGNORANT SLUT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43129035)

As we all know ladie's don't know squat about aeroplane's in the first place !!

It's absolutely true (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129053)

Few people know that when Columbus reached Hispaniola he couldn't get a berth because the harbor was filled with Vikings, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Chinese, etc.

And the Wright brothers couldn't get clearance from the tower due to all the other aviators being in the air already.

Smithsonian Denied Access To Photos (4, Interesting)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129189)

Interesting that the Smithsonian has denied researcher access to photos it holds which could clear up the matter...

"The William J. Hammer Collection is located at the Smithsonian Institute, Researchers are denied access: Hammer Collection archival note denying access to researchers"

you would think that they would at least make copies available. What good are the photos if they are locked away in a vault where nobody can ever look at them?

CSI (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129249)

CSI would have enhanced those pictures enough to read the label on Gustav's clothing. Don't know why Jane's is sticking with blurry pictures when TV proves they can do better.

Controlled flight (1, Insightful)

Baldrson (78598) | about a year and a half ago | (#43129325)

I don't think anyone literate in aviation history has ever disputed that people have "flown" before the Wrights. The problem they solved with controlled flight. The fact that they were able to get a lightweight engine built is interesting but really secondary. Lots of folks could have built a lightweight engine. What people need to credit the Wrights for is their pioneering work in aerodynamic engineering that led to controlled flight. This was their key contribution.
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